Skills and Training

I have now read the manifestos for the UK 2017 election from the; Liberal Democrats, Labour and Conservatives. I think it would be fair to say that after closing out Brexit, the unifying theme is the unfairness of the workplace. By this I mean the phenomenon of the rich getting [much] richer, while the rest don’t [or worse].

The parties are all committed to raising the minimum wage, with some adding in variants of things like; workers on boards, and binding share holder votes on executive pay. The Labour party has the eye-catching policy of a maximum ration of 20:1 between the highest and lowest paid in public sector and companies tendering for public sector contracts.

However, they all collude in the skills and training “deceit”. That is to say they all emphasise increased skills through training as a way to lift people into higher wage jobs. Clearly, better skills, and the improved productivity that might come with it, are a good thing. However, it does not solve the low pay problem.

The reason for this is that, whilst one individual may train up and move from a minimum wage job into something better paid, the minimum wage job remains. There are whole swathes of the economy which requires low skilled labour; harvesting, hospitality, care, retail . . . That is not to say that all jobs in these sectors are paid minimum wage, but very large numbers are, and will remain so. Changing the bedding in a hotel or a care home, serving a customer in a coffee shop, cutting lettuces, picking items in a fulfilment centre – are all jobs that are not going to be somehow “upskilled”. Yes, some of these jobs may be automated – though losing those jobs raises a shed-load of different problems.

What is needed is to pay the people doing these low skilled jobs better. And raising the minimum wage comes close to being a sledge-hammer to miss a nut. It does not allow for those who would willingly work for less, so those businesses do not exist. And it does not help the low paid to earn more than the minimum wage.

The Lib-Dem manifesto pledge to give workers in listed companies with more than 250 employees the right to request shares, confuses fair pay with ownership. Employees add value [hugely] to companies and should share in the profitability,  without any claim on the ownership of the company.

All the parties manifestos treat capitalism as if it was an immutable law of nature. Currently, the law stipulates that ALL the profit of a company is the property of the shareholders.  That needs to change; so that employees benefit in their pay packets, from the success of the businesses they work in.